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Gulf group freezing terrorist suspects' assets

By Rym Brahimi
CNN

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council announced Saturday they would immediately freeze the assets of all the individuals and groups the United States has named as suspected terrorists or supporters of terrorism.

Ministers from Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar also agreed on a common policy for dealing with money laundering in their countries. It is to be implemented next year, the ministers said.

The council's decision underscores the United States' anti-terrorism campaign. On Friday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill announced an expanded list of 39 people or groups suspected to be connected to terrorism, and asked all U.S. financial institutions to freeze their assets immediately.

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President Bush has said the international coalition against terrorism will fight its battle on several fronts, including a financial one. It plans to cut off the money that funds terrorist groups and activities.

John Taylor, treasury undersecretary for international affairs, said Friday that 110 countries have committed to support the U.S. financial effort. Of those, 66 already have put some sort of block in place, he said.

The names of some individuals suspected as sponsors of terrorism have been kept off public lists because U.S. officials believe they may learn more by quietly watching their transactions and other dealings, officials told CNN.

Since the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, $20 million in funds linked to suspected terrorists have been frozen overseas, and $4 million in the United States, officials said.

Some estimate the amount is much higher. On Thursday, some administration officials said privately that the Treasury Department alone has frozen nearly $4 million belonging to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.





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